|Inside the City Walls
A Designer Diary and the Rules for Shadow of Nerekhall
|Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition | Published 13 March 2014|
Shadow of Nerekhall, the newest expansion for Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition, invites you and your fellow adventurers to enter a city trapped in darkness. The city officials insist that “The shadow has passed,” but despite their assurances, strange events have occurred in Nerekhall of late, and you may find yourself up against evil more deadly than ever before. In past previews, we’ve examined the four heroes from Shadow of Nerekhall, alongside the overlord’s new monsters and powers.
Nerekhall is a wellspring of danger, but that doesn’t mean you have to go in unprepared. The rules for this expansion (pdf, 8.2 MB) are now posted on the support page! Download them today, then read below for Justin Kemppainen’s thoughts on some of his favorite parts of designing the Shadow of Nerekhall.
A Word from the Designer
One thing people always seemed to love in the first edition of Descent was that little bit of exploration and discovery. Though it was challenging in an environment of open information, one of the big goals I had for the design of Shadow of Nerekhall was to provide that feeling of exploration, to allow for those moments when the heroes don’t quite know what’s lurking behind the next door.
Adding Influence effects to the expansion was a good solution, inviting the overlord to choose a fairly major event from two or three possibilities. This effect occurs during many encounters throughout the campaign, and can cause substantial pain to the heroes or even change certain victory conditions. Because of the open information philosophy, the heroes can read each of the overlord’s possible Influence choices, but in some ways that’s almost worse.
Even in early playtesting, there was a lovely tension that surfaced when the heroes thought the overlord chose one option. For example, in the sidebar shown to the right, the overlord would choose which member of the city guard was corrupt: the captain, the lieutenant, or neither! The players might be almost certain the overlord had chosen the captain, but the inevitable question – “Is he bluffing?” – was followed by, “No, it’s a double-bluff,” and so on.
Influence also brought the expansion closer to another big goal I had for the overall design. Whereas Labyrinth of Ruin supported the heroes with new game mechanics such as the introduction of allies, Shadow of Nerekhall is all about the overlord. The aforementioned Influence effects allow a nice layer of control and deception, but Corrupt Citizen cards give the overlord his own brand of ally, befitting a brutal tyrant.
Corrupt citizens fit neatly into the narrative running throughout the expansion. At the beginning of the story, Nerekhall lies at the precipice of darkness, desperately clinging to an illusion of security. The heroes arrive in the city as investigators, attempting to sift through posturing and outright lies. Prominent officials tell the heroes that the city’s corruption has been quelled, but how can you trust them when rumors speak of missing persons, secret executions, and citizens terrified to travel the streets at night?
Some of the prominent citizens you’ll encounter were corrupted long ago, subsumed or replaced by terrifying changelings, still hiding in plain sight. As the story progresses, more brave citizens will fall to corruption even as the heroes try desperately to save them.
This translates to gameplay when, depending on the events of a quest, the overlord may receive a Corrupt Citizen card as part of his reward. These cards add new statistics and abilities to a master changeling when played, and so in later quests, the overlord may send corrupted citizens back into the fray, raining retribution on the heroes. For example, by playing The Siren Corrupt Citizen card, one master changeling gains additional health, the Ranged icon, and a new combat ability that heals monsters while punishing nearby heroes!
The Story Continues
The last big piece that went into the design of this expansion was building on the existing lore of Terrinoth. Thus far, we’ve explored rural baronies and distant lands, fighting within forests, dungeons, swamps, and mountains. With Shadow of Nerekhall, we move into a city, well-established within the world, and even showing off a new terrain type.
The story of Nerekhall’s past is known, but only in hints and discussions of a city whose scholarly population has been known to dabble in the black arts. Exploring its sordid history with real, concrete details was a wonderful opportunity. There’s so much in Terrinoth that remains untold, and delving into it is a trend I hope to contribute to in coming months and years.
The gates of the city are open. Will you venture forward and face the darkness within? Shadow of Nerekhall will soon be on sale! Download the rules from the support page, and preorder your copy of Shadow of Nerekhall at your local retailer today.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition is a story-driven board game for 2-5 players that takes a party of adventurers deep into the dungeons of Terrinoth for adventure, treasure, and glory. Players will embark on a campaign of linked quests as they develop characters based on four fantasy archetypes.